Margaritas and fresh tortillas were our first thought when we arrived in Tucson. We heard that here in the southern peak of Arizona, tequila, corn flour, and salsa Picante taste better than anywhere else in America. But this ancient, frontier city offers more than yummy Mexican food. We discovered this when we arrived at Hacienda Del Sol Ranch and Resort, our home for the next three days.
Tucson was our last destination for a ten-day road trip from San Diego, California, to Arizona. We had begun in Page, then went hiking in the Grand Canyon and Sedona. Now it was time to relax under the warm Tucson sun, which sounded as good as under the Tuscan sun. It also made sense to go from the freezing altitude of the Grand Canyon, where we had survived an unexpected snowstorm, to the gentle, red rocks of Sedona and to conclude with a pool surrounded by cactus. Tucson essentially has no winter with its 350 days of sunshine a year, but since the summers are too hot with temperatures well above 90 degrees, February was the perfect time to be there.
Hacienda Del Sol
Saying that Hacienda Del Sol was our home at the end of our trip is not a cliché. The feeling of belonging came instantly as we walked through the entrance. There was something of diligent attention to all the surrounding elements, from the structure to the landscaping, both revealing a sense of beauty and artistic dedication. With each additional moment, we understood more and more the allure of this Spanish colonial ranch in the middle of the Sonoran Desert.
The Vision of Jeff Timan and the History of Hacienda Del Sol
After the check-in, we asked one of the staff members who ran the ranch with such impeccable attention to detail. He responded that five owners, who had acquired the ranch together in 1995, coordinate all aspects of the ranch's daily service, maintenance, and administration. They renovated and expanded the ranch while still preserving its historic character. Viktoria and I are curious people so, by the end of the day, we had most of the information that could be found of this place's history. One can google Hollywood stars, tycoons, and intellectuals associated with Hacienda Del Sol, but that was not our intent. What sparked our curiosity was the vision of Jeff Timan, a man that has channeled his passion into the ranch and gave it the appeal that entices all that come here to relax.
Now it made sense. Back in Europe, where Viktoria and I are from, we have encountered countless examples of artistic beauty created by passionate people such as Jeff Timan. We could picture him designing the landscaping of the ranch, a meticulous mix of desert vegetation, among which the saguaros stand out, not only for their asymmetric beauty but also because they are the home of the local wildlife.
The Artistic Landscape and Handcrafts
Right outside our balcony, one of the saguaros hosted a family of Gila woodpeckers and was the performing stage for a crickets' musical band at night. The bougainvillea shrubs reenjoy vivid color, the citrus trees are loaded with lemons and tangerine, and the bright trumpet flowers infuse the surroundings with sweet smells. The artistic landscape is implemented with handcrafts from locals that display their talent through sculptures, fountains, and paintings.
A Relaxing and Artistic Oasis in the Sonoran Desert
One of our favorite spots to hang out was the Catalina pool, set against the scenic mountains and right above a golf course. There is an artistic marvel on the far corner of the pool, a sculpture that has fascinated our lazy afternoons. Attached to sprung sticks, nine sculpted iron glittering fishes flow in the wind as if they are competing. At least that was my interpretation after having two of the refreshing drinks offered at the bar. Viktoria and I laughed a lot about the fishes floating in the backdrop of Catalina Mountain and the blue sky. Were they flying? Indeed, we have discovered that the original sculpture included a few more of the fishes, and the possibility that a few of them took off could have been real.
The Spacious and Modern Spanish Casitas
Spacious and modern Spanish casita-like rooms include oversized brick fireplaces, vast picture windows, colorfully tiled oversized bathrooms, and the comfiest bed. Yet, each morning we couldn't wait to jump out of it, to pull the curtain to enjoy the morning show of birds practicing today's chorus lines, to take a whiff of the desert breeze escaping the mountains, and to admire those fiery sunrise colors smeared across the sky. But between us, there was one other reason that got our behinds out of bed; it was, hands down, the best pancakes of our lives served in the Hacienda's breakfast restaurant. I remember the first morning when Viktoria ordered them; even before they hit the table, heads were turning, and mouths were opening, including mine. I knew I messed up by not ordering them. I did not make that mistake again.
Saguaro National Park
A trip to the Saguaro national park, a massage, sunbathing by the pool, more margaritas, and evening walks to look for some local wild creatures to confess to us the ancient secrets of the desert were the activities filling our days. We ended them by watching sunsets characterized by orange peach and purple lavender clouds. It was easy to fall in love with this enchanting spot in the Sonoma desert as well as with this whimsical property. Our stay was so relaxing and satisfying—all we could possibly want to end our Arizona adventure road trip. And yes, that last morning, after admiring one more sunrise, we had one last set of the most amazing pancakes before heading back to the more calorie-conscious life back in California.
~ Written by: Viktoria Rusnakova & Samuele Bagnai, authors of Enthusiastic All the Way & Tuscan Who Sold His Fiat to the Pope, respectively.
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